It’s now been 14 weeks since we left the UK. After our time in Japan (click here for my travelguide) we headed to Thailand. Here’s a brief summary (check out our couple of seconds a day video on youtube!) of the time we’ve had there and hopefully some hints and tips for those of you that fancy visiting in the future.
Did you know?
- Bangkok is the worlds most visited city.
- In Thailand, the head is the most important part of the body. No one must ever touch another person on the head. They try to keep their heads lower than the head of any person who is older or more important to show respect.
- One tenth of all animal species on earth live in Thailand.
- Prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, but the law is very rarely enforced. It is estimated there are 1 million sex workers in the country.
- In 1999, 30 vets worked to heal a 38-year-old cow elephants’ foot, which had been destroyed when she stepped on a landmine in Thailand. It set the record for the largest number of vets in one procedure.
- Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia that hasn’t been colonised by Europeans.
- Buddhism is the country’s main religion. It is practiced by 95% of the population.
Where did we go and what were the highlights?
STOP 1 – Bangkok
- Arriving at Bangkok Don Muang airport we got the bus from the airport to a Lumpinee Park which was quite close to our hostel.
- Stayed 8 nights at Ekanek Hostel (£8 per person per night) located in Pat Pong one of Bangkok’s red light districts. It sounds horrible, but it was a really good place and the hosts suggested some un-touristy places for us to visit.
- There’s a lot to see in Bangkok and the best way to get around is by the Skytrain (BTS), underground or buses. Tuk tuks are fun but they are more pricey than public transport and you’re normally left with a face full of pollution.
- Click here for my blog post about my favourite things to do in Bangkok.
STOP 2 – Kanchanaburi
- Arrived by train from Bangkok where we walked from the station to our guesthouse.
- Stayed 5 nights at Siam Guesthouse (£10 per person per night) and then another 2 nights at Good Times Resort (£18 per person per night) where we had a pool.
- Click here for my blog post on our stay in Kanchanaburi.
STOP 3 – Phetchaburi
- Whilst in Kanchanaburi we asked a tour operator how to get to Phetchaburi, she told us to get a bus to Ratchaburi and then catch another to Phetchaburi. Following her advise we got the bus to Ratchaburi however once there it became apparent there was no bus to Phetchaburi. Another blocker was that absolutely nobody spoke English. After walking for miles with our heavy bags we luckily found a train station where we managed to catch a train straight to Phetchaburi. It actually worked out cheaper and quicker in the end, but it was quite stressful figuring out what our options were.
- Our mishap of a journey to Phetchaburi was kind of an omen as to what the place would be like. The hostel we stayed at, Chedi View (£8 per person per night), was decent. It had a roof terrace with a great view and a useful kitchen. However Phetchaburi didn’t have very much to offer… and we stayed for 8 nights…
- We made the most of it, became friendly with the locals. Every morning we would pop over the road and get our fruit from the same old lady who let us try lots of new fruits for free. We’d sometimes get dumplings further down the road from another old lady who would get offended if we went elsewhere. Then there was Rob’s favourite, fried chicken, rice, sweet chilli sauce and a soup from a couple of women in a food court. These ladies knew our faces and despite not being able to speak the same language we built up a kind of rapport with them.
- Whilst in Phetchaburi I’d recommend visiting Phra Nakhon Kiri historical park which we could see from our roof terrace. The place is full of monkeys and there are some beautiful buddhist buildings and views. A little further north of the town is Tham Khao Luang which is a temple inside a cave. If you’re lucky to time it right sunbeams shine through the top of the cave and bounce of the golden buddha’s belly. Obviously we didn’t time it right, but it was still a sight to behold anyways.
STOP 4 – Ayutthaya
- We got the train from Phetchaburi to Hua Lamphong in Bangkok, then switched to another train up to Ayutthaya. Once at the station we walked to the river where we got a river taxi across to the Old Town and then walked some more to our guesthouse. Somehow we always time our walks with our rucksacks to the hottest part of the day. Nine times out of ten I end up making a first appearance with our hosts all sweaty and red.
- Stayed 3 nights at Niwas (£8 per person per night) which wasn’t the nicest but had a comfy social area where we met some lovely people. It also had bikes which we could use for free to get around the town.
- Click here for my blog post on checking out Ayutthaya’s history by bike.
STOP 5 – Sukhothai
- From Ayutthaya we got a bus to Sukhothai New Town which was 12km from where we wanted to be. To get to the Old Town we managed to find another backpacking couple and share a tuk tuk to our hotel.
- Stayed 5 nights at Sawasdee Resort (£18 per person per night). You really don’t need five nights in Sukhothai, however the resort was so nice, the pool was amazing and so we decided to stay in luxury a couple of days extra.
- Click here for my blog post on checking out Sukhothai’s ruins by bike.
STOP 6 – Chiang Mai
- After another bus journey north we made it to Chiang Mai where we were introduced to the red taxis (songtaew) which took us to our hostel.
- We stayed at Hostel by Bed in the Old Town for 7 nights (£8 per person per night). If I’m honest this wasn’t the most fun we’ve had in a hostel. Lots of people making noises at inappropriate hours in the dorms. We didn’t sleep very well that week.
- But it was worth it as spending time in Chiang Mai is always a pleasure. Click here for my blog post on what to do in the lovely city.
STOP 7 – Pai
- Set 131km north of Chiang Mai and accessible only by a road which has 762 turns we got a ‘fun’ minibus to Pai.
- Staying in a cute Country Hut for 4 nights (£8 per person per night) that had a very comfy hammock on the porch. We certainly felt close to nature here and appreciated the mosquito nets.
- Click here for my blog post on what to do in Pai, the travellers paradise.
STOP 8 – Chiang Rai
- We endured another minibus journey from Pai to Chiang Mai and then got another bus to Chiang Rai where we once again took a long walk with our bags to the hostel.
- Most people only spend a couple of days in Chiang Rai, however we stopped 6 nights at Connect Hostel (£8 per person per night). The people that worked there were so friendly and we had a private room. We slept the best we had in weeks here!
- Like I say most people only spend a couple of days here, mainly to go and see the famous White Temple. Wat Rong Khun isn’t really a temple, it’s an art exhibition, which we only realised after we had visited. We came away from the White Temple thinking ‘well this is a weird place to worship’, yet when we found out it was an art exhibition it all made much more sense!
- Aside from the White Temple, Chiang Rai has so much more to offer. It’s surrounded by a beautiful landscape. On our first day in the town a girl who worked at the hostel asked if we fancied a trip to a waterfall, we obviously said ‘yes’. The following day we packed bags and set off following her on our scooter up to this waterfall. It was a beautiful walk, over rocks, through the river and rice terraces. I’m really sorry but I don’t know what this waterfall was called, however we also went to another a few days later called Khun Korn which had a really nice walking trail but you couldn’t go in the water as the current was way too strong.
- While in Chiang Rai there was a music festival on at Singha Park (yes… like the beer). It was no Glasto but it was an experience to say the least. Watching artists rap, sing and joke in Thai and not having a clue what was being said was crazy but so worth it.
- Finally we went to the Baan Dam which was another art exhibition on the estate of Thawan Duchanee. I’m not sure I enjoyed this place as it was full of animal skulls, horns, skeletons and skins which I’m sure didn’t die of natural causes if you get my drift.
STOP 9 – Chiang Mai
- From Chiang Rai we got another bus back to Chiang Mai where we stayed for another week before we returned to Bangkok in preparation for our flight to Sri Lanka.
- We stayed at the wonderful Entaneer Hostel (£8 per person per night) just outside Old Town and I can’t recommend it enough. The owner Pap and his brother-in-law run a tight ship with the most tasty guacamole (not so Thai I know…) for breakfast.
- Again, click here for my blog post on what to do in Chiang Mai.
How to get around?
- Thailand is a well trodden path so transport whether it may be bus, train or taxi is easy to find from place to place. It is also very cheap.
- Always barter with tuk tuk and taxi drivers OR ensure they are on a metre.
- AGAIN use Maps.me. It’s a life saver. I will continue to mention it over and over again.
Thailand is such a popular backpacker spot, not just because it’s a beautiful country, but because of it’s price tags. Accommodation and transport is very cheap. Food is also cheap, street food is the tastiest and cheapest way to eat. A pad thai by a street food vendor is usually about 40 baht (approx 96p). However I have to admit I thought beer would be much cheaper, from 7/11’s a big bottle is about 56 baht (approx £1.35) which is quite similar to a supermarket in the UK and from a bar it would be 100 baht (approx £2.42). It’s probably a good thing though that the beer wasn’t too cheap as I’d end up drinking too much! All in all we had a rough daily budget for food, drink and transport of 700 baht between us (approx £17).
- Watch out for the ATM fees, every ATM charges 220 baht (approx £5) for each transaction. There is no getting around this, we checked. So utilise each cash withdrawal as much as you can as those fees can soon add up, £5 goes a long way in Thailand.
- Eat street food.
- Don’t be shy of bartering. When we first arrived in Thailand I was pretty useless but soon got into the swing of it. Just don’t be too cheeky, these guys need to earn a sensible wage, just look out for them trying to swindle you and make you pay over the odds.
What will I remember Thailand for most?
Being asked ‘where are you going’ all the time by someone wanting to offer some sort of help for a fee, many white people in hareem pants and elephant t-shirts, pad thai, khao soi, stinky durian, standing for the King before a showing at the cinema, bad luck if you ask about snakes whilst on a hike (we learnt this the hard way), lovely lady boys, women in construction (go on girls!), monks absolutely everywhere.
After spending two months in Thailand it started to feel like home. We mastered a few of the key phrases and understood how life worked there. I can see why so many people visit the country and spend so long travelling it. Luckily we will be back there again in January down in Phuket, Ko Yao Noi and Krabi.
For now though we are in Sri Lanka. We arrived a couple of days ago and after the dramatic culture shock we’re fully in swing and loving the place. Tomorrow we head to the coast (finally), I am so ready for some beach time.
Sending love back home.